With no time for a warm-up, I took my place in the first of seven waves, alongside the Big Guns of Endurance Mountain Biking. Elite riders, such as Dylan Cooper, Shawn Lewis, Jason English, Brett Bellchambers and Jenny Fay, but also regular foes Garry James, Mike Israel and Trent Moore. As I had expected, the pace was frenetic from the outset, and I struggled to keep in contact with the main group. A rider came alongside me complaining he had forgotten to take a bottle of water and he was in for a long day. I remember noticing him on the start line and had wondered what insane strategy he was employing. The rider was Jamie Ingram, and he was able to salvage a dropped bottle after just 10 km, thus saving him from the damaging effects of dehydration. Perhaps the rider ahead, who had dropped the bottle, was less fortunate.
Justin had been three minutes ahead, having started in the second wave, and this provided the motivation to keep pushing hard to the finish at Mt. Stromlo. I climbed the switchbacks with renewed gusto and, as always, thrived on the white knuckle descending along skyline and the luge. I was to take five minutes on the final section to beat him by two. Finishing in 4.08.52, I trimmed 10 minutes off my time from the previous year and placed 96th.
Dylan Cooper and Jenny Fay took line honors in the elite category with Shaun Lewis, Jason English, Naomi Hansen and Eliza Kwan filling the podium. Mike Israel was an excellent 44th, Trent Moore 52nd, Jetblack teammates Andrew Finlayson 32nd and Andrew Fell 69th. Congratulations to Guy Cowan (87th) and Elvio Fernandes (95th), Elvio finally beating me by just nine seconds!